I'll be the first to admit that since growing this directory has to be a slow-build, I've started off this interview series by interviewing women who I already knew, many of whom I've become friends with after years of following their shops. I'm pleased to say that for the first time since starting this site, I'm sharing a brand that I learned about because of the directory. The whole point of this site is to get introduced to new, women-owned brands and shops, and Dolkii is exactly the kind of brand that I was excited to come across through Instagram.
Of course, one look at Dolkii, and it's easy to see why I would be immediately smitten. Shaiyanne Dar created and runs the online brand of graphic tees and accessories, and the Hawai'i inspired line immediately makes you wish that you were relaxing on the beach in one of her T-shirts. The brand is happy and colorful, and it feels even more positive once you know that proceeds from the Wahine collection are donated to Women's Fund of Hawai'i. Shaiyanne was kind enough to talk to me a little about her work with the non-profit, how Dolkii has evolved over the years, and what kinds of products customers can look forward to in the future.
Q: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of starting your business? What made you want to do this and how did you turn your idea into a reality?
A: Dolkii actually started as an online fashion blog in 2013. I was living in Brooklyn, New York and we had a terrible winter season which meant spending A LOT of time indoors so I poured that downtime into building a website where I could share my outfits and fashion tips. My sister Yasmin is actually the one who approached me asking if I would ever turn the blog into an online shop.
So, in May of 2015, we launched Dolkii’s online shop where we carried other brands like Free People, Mink Pink, and Somedays Lovin. Yasmin and I would go to the trade shows in Las Vegas to do our buys each season. That was a huge learning period for us because we quickly noticed the pieces our customers gravitated towards. By mid 2015, I moved back west to Los Angeles (I wanted to be closer to home and I was tired of East Coast weather!), so when I finally made the move, that is when we got serious about developing our own line instead of buying from other brands. I figured, our customers are only really buying these key pieces, why are we burning budget buying everything else? It took about a year for me to create the concept, find local contractors, go through the sampling process, and bulk production process but we finally launched and debuted our first collection at Honolulu Night Market in the summer of 2016.
Since then, the line has definitely evolved into what it is today, and I’m constantly paying attention to what my customers like when developing new products. Next year, I will be focusing heavily on developing pieces to outfit our girls along with our tees, like bottoms (pants and skirts) and intimates (mainly bralettes).
Q: What was your first product to take off or find enough success that you were encouraged to do more?
A: We had a romper called Romper Zoya that we debuted at Honolulu Night Market back in 2016 and we could not keep it in stock. We started out small with just two colors (black and maroon) and once we saw how successful the item was, we expanded to many colors. Eventually, we transitioned the brand to only focus on graphic tees but we had a fun run with Romper Zoya :)
Q: What were your friends and family’s reactions to you starting a business? Were you nervous to share it?
A: They were stoked at not surprised at all. I think I spent so much time complaining about whatever full-time job I was working and always saying “if I had my own clothing brand I’d do it this way instead”, so when Dolkii finally launched and they saw how happy it made me, they fully supported what I was doing!
Q: Can you tell me a little bit more about the decision to partner with The Women's Fund of Hawai'i and what that process has been like?
A: I’ve always wanted to create a brand with a purpose, and strong social good practices that parallel our own brand values, but it was always so hard for me to pick just one non-profit to support. There are so many issues deserving of our undivided attention. What I love about partnering with Women’s Fund of Hawai’i is that when you donate to their organization, you’re not just supporting one nonprofit, you’re supporting hundreds of causes across the state of Hawai’i who focus on bettering the lives of women and girls statewide. What I love most is that Dolkii’s partnership with WFH goes beyond just cutting them a check once a quarter. I’m constantly looking for creative ways to support their outreach from sharing their fundraising events with our followers to spotlighting grantees on our blogs. The impact they have on women and girls in our local community is incredible and I want every single one of our customers to feel empowered in that they are contributing to that impact with every item they buy from our Wahine Collection.